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February is Black History Month. While we celebrate diversity every day of the year, we are marking this month and celebrating by sharing the stories of some incredible Black moms throughout history. Make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Facebook for some of our favorite pearls of wisdom and video footage of these incredible women. Make sure you check out the below for further reading on each of these inspirational women in history.
Cleo Wade is an American poet, artist, author and activist. Born to a white mother and a black father, Cleo has one daughter with her fiance, Memphis Love Kinberg, born in January 2020. Most recently,Cleo wrote a children’s book, What the Road Said. You’ll be able to get a copy for your family in march 2021. If you’re active on Instagram, you have most likely seen Cleo Wade’s words of wisdom permeating your feed. She is quoted often and shared in viral posts on a regular basis. Many of us don’t know the beautiful face behind these words…and now you do. Make sure to follow her so you don’t miss any of her incredible words of wisdom. For further reading: Where to Begin and Heart Talk both by Cleo Wade.
Many of you would say Shonda Rhimes saved a week of your pandemic life! Over 82 million people have already watched her latest television hit on Netflix, Bridgerton. But before that Rhimes rose to fame as the creator, head writer, and executive producer of the television drama Grey’s Anatomy, its spin-off Private Practice, and the political thriller series Scandal. Fun fact about Rhimes—she wrote Crossroads—remember Brittney Spear’s film debut? Not only is this woman an entertainment powerhouse—she has three kids as well! Rhimes adopted her first daughter in 2002, her second in 2012, and welcomed her third via gestational surrogacy in 2013. We can’t wait to see what’s up next for Rhimes…after the second season of Bridgerton of course! For further reading: The Year of Yes! by Shona Rhimes
An American-born French entertainer, French Resistance agent, and civil rights activist, Josephine Baker was also the mom of twelve adopted children. Often referred to as “The Rainbow Tribe,” Baked aimed to prove that “children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers.” This woman lived a fascinating life that spanned continents and periods of history. For further reading: Josephine Baker: The Hungry Heart.
As an American singer, songwriter, actress, dancer and record producer, Janet Jackson has been a fixture in American culture simply through her last name. As one of Michael Jackson’s sisters, she more than made a name for herself through many of her own hits and incredible performances. But most amazing was that Jackson became a mom, carry her baby to term at age 51. In an Instagram post on January 3, 2020 she said, “3 years ago today God blessed me, at the age of 50, with the greatest gift of all. My baby!” For further reading: True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself by Janet Jackson.
A track and field star, Allyson Felix is the only female track and field athlete to ever win six Olympic gold medals. She is currently the most decorated woman in U.S. track and field history. In an effort to stand up for women and secure new maternity protections for athletes, she was dropped by Nike in the process. As she wrote in the New York Times, at the time, Felix, 33, said: “I asked Nike to contractually guarantee that I wouldn’t be punished if I didn’t perform at my best in the months surrounding childbirth. “I wanted to set a new standard. … Nike declined.” Felix is married to American sprinter and hurdler Kenneth Ferguson. Together, they have a daughter, Camryn, born in 2018, who is lucky to have this power house of a mom to look up to every single day. For further reading, Felix’s essay “My Own Nike Pregnancy Story” can be found here.
America knows Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama as the first African-American First Lady of the United States, opposite President Barak Obama. But this attorney and author has accomplished so much more in her own right. A Harvard educated attorney with a career of her own, Obama spearheaded the “Let’s Move” campaign to reverse childhood obesity while in the White House and actively spoke out in favor of LGBT rights. In her post White House life, Obama authored Becoming, one of the best-selling memoirs of our time. With a Netflix documentary debuting alongside the book, she also launched a podcast. Oh, and all the while…she raised two beautiful daughters along the way. For further reading: Becoming by Michelle Obama. For your kids, Work it Girl: Michelle Obama.
The long and remarkable life of Katherine Johnson had many noteable moments. While she was one of three students chosen to integrate West Virginia’s graduate schools, she previously had earned a PhD and graduated with the highest honors in mathematics. After a hiatus to stay home and start a family, she later returned to work at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA’s) Langley laboratory.
Ultimately this led to a position at NASA where her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. Her work earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barak Obama and in 2019 the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Additionally, Taraji P. Henson portrayed Johnson in the movie Hidden Figures, a story about the work she and other Black women did to help NASA with the success of their space program. Katherine had three daughters, six grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren at the time of her death at the age of 101 in February 2020. Further reading: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race For your kids: Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13.
Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist, poet and author best known for her memoir, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.’ In addition to seven autobiographies, three books of essays and books of peotry, she is also credited with plays, movies and television shows over a fifty year period. After suffering from sexual abuse as a young child, Aneglou became mute for five years, only speaking to her brother. It was a family friend that helped her once again find her words.
Angelou lived a robust and full life with many different experiences. President Bill Clinton tapped her as only the second poet (at the time) to read an original poem at a presidential inauguration. She has three Grammy Awards to her name and was one of the first female African American members of the Directors’ Guild of America. A little known fact: a t the age of 16, she became the first Black female cable car conductor in San Francisco. And through all of her success, Angelou spoke so many words of wisdom treasured by many across the globe, and by her one and only son, Guy. She also had one grandson and two great-grandchildren. Further reading: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou and for your kids: Little People, Big Dreams: 3 Black Voices
Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped, and made thirteen subsequent trips to help save and free over seventy slaves. She risked her own life doing so by using the network of safe houses created known as the Underground Railroad. She was an abolitionist and a political activist, fighting for the rights of Black people. During the Civil War she worked for the Union Army as a spy, helping to free even more enslaved people. Harriet Tubman had one adopted daughter, Gertie. For further reading: Harriet Tubman, The Road to Freedom. For your kids: The Story of Harriet Tubman: A Biography Book for New Readers
With her crazy outfits and insane vocal range, Jennifer Hudson stood out on the third season of American Idol, coming in seventh place. This probably fared better for her as she went on to become an accomplished singer, actress, and philanthropist with an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and two Grammy Awards to her name for her breakout role in Dreamgirls. A Chicago native, Jennifer Hudson’s family made headlines when her mother, brother and nephew were killed in a shooting. Jennifer and her sister went on to create the Julian D. King foundation The Julian D. King Gift Foundation to provide stability, support and positive experiences for children of all backgrounds and to help enable them to grow to be productive, confident and happy adults. Hudson has gone on to become a coach on The Voice and will depict Aretha Franklin in the biopic about the life of the superstar later in 2021. She has one son and resides in the suburbs of Chicago.
Make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Facebook as we share more from these amazing Black moms throughout history. Each week in February we will be introducing you ten more Black moms we think you should know about. Join us as we celebrate Black History Month throughout February and beyond!